One-hundred-and-fifty years ago today, in a massacre that has made the most hardened individuals around the world tremble, William Quantrill, age 25, targeted Lawrence, Kan. with 300 to 400 riders and ruthlessly slaughtered almost 200 men ages 12 years and older. The raiders carefully planned their onslaught against the pro-Union anti-slavery town by maneuvering to the north and riding over Mount Oread down into the unsuspecting populace.
In addition to the killings, Quantrill's men looted and robbed and burned nearly every major building in the town along with the Eldridge Hotel, 701 Massachusetts St., which was rebuilt. The raid lasted for four hours and by 9 a.m. the raiders were speeding out of the territory.
Some theories as to the reason for this most bloody rage was revenge against Union for the collapse of a women's prison at 1425 Grand, Kansas City, Mo. These women were incarcerated by Union forces for aiding and abetting Confederates. The building, which had undergone construction for an additional floor had made it unsafe, fell with the women inside killing four and maiming several others. Josephine Anderson, a 15-year-old and sister of William T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson, was among the killed while his 13-year old sister received two broken legs.
Although this might have been a viable reason for the raid, it had been planned long before the collapse had taken place, however, could have consequently added a thirst for a blood revenge against pro-Union supporters.
Whatever personal motivation Quantrill had, and some believe his motives were not so much for the advent of the Confederate Army as much for his individual power, the blood-bath between the two states only increased and raged and lasted far after the end of the Civil War.
"Viewed in any light, the Lawrence Raid will continue to be held, as the most infamous event of the uncivil war!" said a Missouri abolitionist and preacher.
The Lawrence Massacre only increased the tension between the states and escalated the blood and fire of the Civil War. Many innocent Missourians were held accountable for the acts of Quantrill and his raiders.
To commemorate the horrendous act, The Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts Str., Lawrence, Kan., has opened a new exhibit regarding the Lawrence Massacre.
Facts about Lawrence and Quantrill
- Nearly all the families in Lawrence came from Massachusetts to set Kansas up as an anti-slavery free-state.
- The historic Eldridge Hotel was burned down twice, in 1856 as well as 1863. In 1856 by a pro-slavery sheriff. Each time rebuilt with an additional floor.
- A year before on October 17, 1862, Quantrill attacked and raided the small city of Shawnee, Kan. All the citizens were herded in the square while raiders burned nearly all the buildings in the town. Only a few citizens were killed at that time.
- Quantrill was really a school teacher for awhile at the age of 16 and taught school in Lawrence, Kan from 1859-1860.
- Quantrill was not so much a pro-slaver as he was a bounty hunter, earning money to return runaway slaves back to their masters
- Perhaps the best depiction of the Lawrence Massacre was the 1999 film Ride with the Devil
Quantrill died in a Union ambush May 10, 1865 in Taylorsville, Ken.; however, there was a story in 1907 that a man called John Sharp in Canada claimed to be Quantrill and had escaped the ambush with injuries. Within a short time after the story broke, Sharp was found beaten and dying and no facts on his assailants. The case was never solved.
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